By Pete Waldmeir
These high-spenders never learn, do they?
Just one week after Grosse Pointe Woods' voters resoundingly rejected the city council's poor-mouth request for a whopping 4-mill tax increase that would have cost property owners upwards of $20 million over the next 10 years, guess what?
Mayor Robert Novitke last night (Nov. 14) hosted nearly 100 Woods' politicians, administrators, residents and business owners as he handed out a blizzard of city "Beautification Awards" during a lavish, taxpayer-financed booze and food party at Lochmoor Country Club!
Sparing no expense, the council's guests were seated at 12 tables of eight and invited to order any drink they wanted from the "open bar." Beer, wine, cocktails, whatever. The buffet included a wide assortment of entrees including ravioli, chicken Marsala and beef Strogonoff, plus salad, rolls and fresh fruit.
Dessert included cookies and a chocolate cake donated by a local bakery.
You'll likely see the award recipients' group photos - with Novitke in each of them, of course - in the local papers and in the city's official propaganda publication, the Update, coming soon. Without highball glasses in hand, of course. Not in the photos, anyway.
You know what makes this whole party thing really ironic? (Moronic?) Reeling from the twin $10 million-for-10 years roads tax and a $10 million Headlee Override blank check refusals, City Hall employees this week have been asked by the city administration, when answering phone calls, to seek residents' "ideas" for ways that they (the residents) would cut the city's bloated operating budget if they had the chance.
Yes, you read that right.
In the months leading up to the failed tax-increase attempt, the mayor and council held a "public hearing" on the proposed 2013 budget and later held two alleged Town Hall "discussions" on the pair of millage-increasing ballot proposals.
But despite claiming an imminent financial crisis, at each bizarre public event Novitke and other officials refused to answer any citizens' questions publicly, causing a near-riot at one of the Town Halls. Now they want city employees to seek input from citizens who the mayor and council refuse to hear?
The City Hall number is 313-343-2440. Don't settle for the water clerk, either. Ask for City Manager Al Fincham. Go for it!
Listen, other Michigan cities also present beautification awards to property owners, in good times and bad. It's a nice way to acknowledge residents and businesses that maintain and improve their property.
Some of the more prosperous communities may even invite award winners to events at private clubs - if they can afford it. How many have an "open bar" isn't exactly widely publicized. But I'd venture that not many who are pleading poverty choose to squander taxpayers' money that way.
Check the other Pointes. The Farms, for example, hands out their citizen awards - Beautification included - at regular council meetings. No hooch allowed.
Incidentally, while you're making your calls to City Hall, ask them if they're planning to throw another taxpayer-financed $10,000 mid-winter party in the next couple of months?
That's the annual soiree where only the mayor, council, administrative staff, department heads and the literally dozens of Novitke volunteer "appointees" to a slew of city boards and commissions (read: election campaign workers and contributors) are invited.
That, traditionally, has been a sit-down or buffet dinner, with an open bar, too. And $10K may be a lowball number.
Good luck getting past the water clerk when you call to tell them what you think about how they might "save" some of your tax money. And having anyone with any clout actually listen if you do.
Pete Waldmeir is a retired newspaper coumnist and former member of the Grosse Pointe Woods city council, who chose not to run for a second term.